After winning the previous two majors by a combined 23 shots, Tiger Woods appeared poised for an encore at the 2000 PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Ky. He eventually took his bows, but not before nearly being upstaged by a journeyman whose performance would have been good enough for victory in any previous championship.
Woods, 24, had been in control of the 82nd PGA Championship from the outset, when he opened with a sterling 66 – eight strokes lower than the field scoring average – playing alongside five-time champion Jack Nicklaus, who was making his 37th and final start. Woods still led by a stroke entering the final round, and he fired a closing 6 7 for a tournament-record 270 total, which, predictably, put him in first place at the end of regulation.
But victory required more work. That’s
because 31-year-old Bob May, a non-
winner on the PGA Tour, decided to
rekindle some of his glory days as a
hotshot California junior player. May, who
set numerous youth records that Woods
would eventually eclipse, shot three
straight 66s and matched Woods shot for
shot down the stretch at Valhalla.
In fact, May was out front for much of the final round, leading by two after six holes with a birdie at No. 2 while Woods bogeyed twice. An inward 31 would have put anyone else away, but Woods responded with birdies at seven of the final 1 2 holes, including a slippery 6-footer at the home hole to force overtime after May had holed a 15-foot birdie.
The first three-hole aggregate score playoff in PGA Championship history ensued, and Woods began it by walking after a 20-foot birdie at the 16th, pointing at it as it dropped. Two solid pars, and Woods became the first repeat winner since Denny Shute in 1936–37 and the first man since Ben Hogan in 1953 to win three majors in a calendar year.
“It was an incredible battle,” said Woods, who went on to complete the ‘Tiger Slam’ by capturing the Masters the following April. “We never backed off. Birdie for birdie, shot for shot, that’s as good as it gets.” —Dave Shedloski
Rewind: 2000 – Woods held off May in a playoff to capture his third major
build a three-shot cushion over Lon Hinkle through 54 holes.
In the last two years Nicklaus had shown a propensity for not finishing off tournaments, and sure enough, on the penultimate hole of the final round he suffered a bogey. That let Andy Bean sneak within seven shots of him. A final par for 69 added up to 6-under 274. No one else among the 77 players who made the cut broke par.
Chirped Ed Sneed when it was over:
“Who does he think he is, Jack Nicklaus
In a word, yes.
“I guess it might have looked like a dull
day to most people, but it wasn’t dull to
me,” said Nicklaus, whose seven-stroke
margin of victory is still the tournament
standard. “I played well, but you have to on
this golf course. It’s a marvelous layout and
it was in beautiful condition. I got lucky
and managed to stay ahead of it.”
He also stayed ahead of any speculation
that he was finished winning when it
mattered most. Not only did he tie Hagen
with five PGA titles, but he also became
just the third man in history to win the U.S.
Open and PGA Championship in the same
year, joining Gene Sarazen in 1922 and Ben
Hogan in ’ 48. What’s more is what the
victory did for his confidence.
“I really only found my game once
summer came around, only for a few
months,” Nicklaus recalled. “By the time I
found it and really got going, the season
was over. But I remember that I left Oak
Hill thinking I had another one or maybe
more major championships in me.”
It took a while, but he proved himself
Dave Shedloski is a free-lance golf writer from Alexandria, Ohio, and a frequent contributor to
Nicklaus’ victory at the 1980 PGA Championship tied him with Walter Hagen for most wins in Championship history with five.
THE OFFICIAL PROGRAM OF THE 2010 PGA CHAMPIONSHIP
THE PGA OF AMERICA